In 1994, the underground music community was fighting for identity. With the long-underground grunge (see: Nirvana, Pearl Jam) exploding into the mainstream, and punk-pop finally receiving MTV coverage (see: The Offspring, Green Day), a precious void was left in the West Coast’s basements and clubs.
Taking cues from the East Coast (see: Rites of Spring, Fugazi), California’s Jawbreaker emerged to play music in a blossoming new style, emo, a decade before mainstream media destroyed and spread ignorance about the term. Rooted in three-chord punk rock, Jawbreaker were near opposites to Seattle’s Sunny Day Real Estate. While maintaining the defining passion of traditional emo, Sunny Day Real Estate was clearly rooted in indie-rock and preferred complex musicianship over brash hardcore-punk styles.
Emo spread through the west and mid-west (see: Jimmy Eat World, Braid), with each new band taking cues from Sunny Day Real Estate along the way. Diary, Sunny Day Real Estate’s fifty-minute debut, was the blueprint to that movement. The band broke up shortly after its release, though, issuing a half-finished self-titled farewell album in 1995. The band reunited to issue a 1998 compilation album, but ended up with a proper full-length (How it Feels to be Something On) and a final farewell, 2000’s The Rising Tide, before disbanding again in 2001.
In early 2009, Sunny Day Real Estate announced plans for a reunion with their founding lineup; the reunited four-piece rolled into New York City’s Terminal 5 on September 30.
Hailing from Los Angeles, the recently reinvigorated The Jealous Sound provided direct and only support for Sunny Day Real Estate. Sticking heavily to 2003’s Kill Them with Kindness, the California emo-indie four piece sounded excellent during their thirty-minute set. Former Knapsack vocalist Blair Shehan sounded great, and the rhythm section (bassist John McGinnis and drummer Adam Wade) was rock solid, providing lead guitarist Pedro Benito a strong foundation for his luscious licks.
Excitement exuded through the crowd, and shortly after 9PM Sunny Day Real Estate began playing “Friday”, the leadoff track from their self-titled effort. Diary received heavy treatment–only “Round”, “The Blankets Were the Stairs”, and “Pheurton Skeurto” were absent–beginning with “Seven” and moving through three additional 1994 cuts.
Unfortunately, Sunny Day Real Estate opted not to play anything from the beautiful The Rising Tide and picked just one song from How it Feels to be Something On. This was hardly surprising, however, as the band was performing with founding member and bassist Nate Mendel for the first time in fifteen years and likely wanted to stick to their original material. The lone pick from How it Feels to be Something On, “Guitar and Video Games”, drew much applause from an audience likely raised on the song’s subject matter.
Midway through the set frontman Jeremy Enigk announced that the band would play a brand new song, much to the crowd’s excitement. The song, which is still untitled, sounded right at home in the Sunny Day Real Estate catalog. Diary-closer “Sometimes”, featuring an extended introduction with Dan Hoerner’s intricate guitarwork, closed out the band’s set. A few minutes later, the three song encore began with “In Circles”. “Friday” b-side “Spade and Parade” followed before the band finished with a strong performance of “48”. The full set:
Song About An Angel
Guitar And Video Games
Spade & Parade
Sunny Day Real Estate sounded fantastic, with an excellent fifteen-song setlist. If the band’s 1994 debut served as the blueprint to the ’90s emo-indie movement, then the band’s 2009 performance should serve as an instructional how-to for a plethora of bands formed as a result of the ’90s movement. Sunny Day Real Estate performed with passion, with precision, and for ninety minutes. More bands in 2009’s “scene” need to apply these three principles.
Photos credit to Taryn Looney
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